The first 24 hours of our vacation set the scene for a fantastic week.
By Hannah Wallace
Schedule, Day 1:
7:30 a.m., flight leaves TPA.
10:40 a.m., Pacific time, arrive in LAV.
11 a.m., meet sister in airport. Vegas!


I'm in Vegas and I'm not coming out.

An inauspicious start

At a late-night hockey practice nine hours before we’re to board our plane in Tampa, my koala-like reflexes fail to save me from a slap shot that, of course, finds its way to my soft, unprotected inner thigh. I double over and hop around like a one-person mosh pit. “That’s gonna leave a mark,” CCB jokes. Man, is it ever.

The 1778 breakfast: French toast and Sam Adams at 7 a.m. in the Tampa airport.

The next morning, three minutes after our plan leaves the Tampa tarmac, a woman in the row behind us lets out a horrible, desperate cry: “Someone, help, please!” Her companion, a man of no more than 50, has gone unconscious. Fortunately, the flight attendant is a rock, talking to the man as he comes to, then getting on the PA and calmly—cheerfully, even—asking for doctors or nurses on the flight to hit their call buttons. Within minutes all is friendly conversation, as a nurse, a pediatrician and a dentist introduce themselves and take the man’s blood pressure—100 over 60. Eesh. Of course, mine feels like twice that. Not yet the relaxing escape I’d hoped for.
I break off from a game of travel Scrabble to hit the loo midway through the flight and discover the inside of my leg is one big saucer-sized bruise, purple and red. I try not to think of the relationship between leg injuries, long flights and pulmonary embolisms.
It’s windy in Vegas. The 20-minute descent leaves imprints of my fingernails in CCB’s hand.
Finally on the ground, we haven’t eaten in six hours. I check my voicemail: My sister’s flight has been delayed. She’s been rerouted from San Diego through Sacramento. She won’t be in for another four hours. We grab our luggage and wait 10 minutes to be served at an airport café, then give up and head to the shuttle.

But then, Vegas takes over…

 Our room, among only a handful in the Mirage that were just remodeled this year.

Four hours early for check-in, they give us our room just the same. The Mirage casino, which surrounds a calming palm-tree-filled arboretum, isn’t as loud as I’d expected (the high ceilings take care of that). And man oh man, the blinky lights and pretty, shiny things. Our 15th-floor room is great. California Pizza Kitchen, alongside the TV-filled race and sports book, is great. Putting $20 on the underdog in that night’s UFC bout is great. First impression: Vegas is great. And we haven’t even left the hotel yet.

CCB falls in love with the room's modern decor.

The view, showing the wavy gold reflection from the Mirage’s windows.

Along the Strip, we’re relentlessly serenaded by the clackety-clackety racket of prostitute business cards being shuffled and snapped by the mute distributers. We plop down at a couple of nickel slots across the street at Imperial Palace, where my sister is finally upstairs in her room getting settled. And then: nirvana. I haven’t yet realized that we’re sitting alongside a pit of celebrity impersonators dealing blackjack. Suddenly Dolly Parton mounts a platform and begins belting out a song. “This,” I shout at CCB over the music, “is what I wanted!” Next up: Elvis.

Moments later, my sister meets us. Thing 2 (she’s 11 minutes younger than Thing 1, her twin sister) recommends the dollar margaritas at Casino Royale. From there we’re off, wandering aimlessly through Harrah’s and Treasure Island, under the vertigo-inducing fake-sky ceilings at the Venetian and Paris, stopping at slot machines as the mood strikes. We watch the Bellagio fountains dancing to “All That Jazz” and nearly see a midnight fistfight erupt at McDonald’s.

 The Bellagio fountains form their kick line.

A San Diego resident, Thing 2 has energy to burn. But the time change and travel have gotten to me, and before I know it—waaay earlier than people are supposed to crash in Vegas—CCB and I are sound asleep in our big cushy bed. Tomorrow brings half-yard mai tais, foie gras, underwater acrobats and the glorious Gold Fish bonus. This is gonna be great.

Just before nodding off, I snag one more peek at the view of the bright lights from our room.